Hidden bacteria living in electronic cigarettes, FOX23 investigates

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Reported by: Brittany Jeffers
Updated: 2/03 9:29 pm Published: 2/03 8:42 pm

     There's been a lot of discussion about the safety of the vapor from e-cigarettes, but FOX23 decided to investigate the germs that may be on the actual electronic devise itself.

Keep it in the drawer, a pouch, a bag, here or there, we wanted to know what bacteria lived on an electronic cigarette that’s used daily.

FOX23 found three people that allowed us to swab their e-cigarettes, and then send the specimen off to the lab.

All participants say they’re nervous because they throw the device wherever.

Our first participant said, “I either put it on my computer desk or in my purse.”

Participant Jamie Furr said, “I usually throw my e-cig into my purse, just on the go.”

A quick grab in a convenient place.

Our third participant, Terri,  said, “I usually wear mine on a lanyard around my neck.”

FOX23 asked Terri, "Do you ever clean it?"

"Every time I change the vapor," said Terri.

Some people like Terri clean theirs frequently, others don’t, but e-cigarette store owners tell FOX23 they try to stress it.

“It’s very important to know all of the proper maintenance techniques and cleaning techniques,” said Jeremy Dickerson. 

Jeremy is the owner of Vapor Eyes in South Tulsa.

Our FOX23 crew went to the vapor store and spoke with Dickerson about the e-cigarettes and the proper cleaning techniques.

Dickerson told us that once someone buys an e-cigarette, he tells them how to keep them properly cleaned: using water, tooth picks. Paper towels are your best friend.

Even cotton swabs and pipe cleaners.

"You really want to get in there and clean that with a Q-tip from time to time make sure there isn't a bunch of residue down in there,” said Dickerson.

The reality is that doesn't always happen so if you ever imagined you might have bacteria or yeast or mold your devise, you could be right.

FOX23 found three willing participants to allow us to swab the outside of their e-sig.

We took it to Tulsa University’s lab where they cultured it and found a surprising answer to our question, "what bacteria lies on an electronic cigarette."

Dr. Mohammed Fakhry at the TU lab told FOX23, “two of the three were really full of a good number of bacteria species and also some fungi.

Dr. Mohammed Fakhry showed me the two cultures that didn't fare so well
“It’s expected to have microbes, pretty much everywhere but it is the number that is worrisome. 

At least the appearance would tell me that there are about three or four different types of bacteria strains, said Mohammed.

We do want to mention that because the number of electronic cigarettes that we tested was so small, the results cannot be 100 percent statistically accurate.

Even though it’s not extensive research, Fakhry says the presence of yeast, mold and bacteria sends a message.

“It's a good reminder that you have to clean them out because it is high numbers, even regular non-pathogenic bacteria in large numbers… you don't know what they can do,” said Fakhry.

Terri said she was grossed out to see what could on the surface, “I think they could possibly be sick or carrying something else that someone else has got," Terri said.

That’s why she told FOX23 that she cleans her cigarette every 24 hours, just like Jeremy instructed her too.

Jeremy told FOX23 an easy rule is to clean the e-cig every time you put in a new cartridge.

It will keep the device working and the stuff you can't see at bay.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

Infodad - 2/5/2014 1:08 PM
0 Votes
Fast and works and ships free: http://mahmax.com

Mayor Maynot - 2/5/2014 2:30 AM
0 Votes
Ummmm, what about all the toxins and poisons that are in regular tobacco.

JunkMountain - 2/4/2014 7:14 PM
0 Votes
Cartridges? Oh those! Um yeah anything you put in your mouth is gonna have bacteria. So um why is this newsworthy again..Oh yeah so you can take another stab at healthy living.

Unwashed Mass - 2/4/2014 12:45 PM
1 Vote
How does this compare to bacteria from pipes, which have been in use for thousands of years?

tomj777 - 2/4/2014 8:31 AM
1 Vote
Bacteria, Darn'd little things are everywhere (on your fingers, lips, keyboard). Seriously, though - all risks can be mitigated with common sense (amazing tool, common sense). As other commentators have said, propylene glycol has some wonderful properties, use of alcohol wipes is obvious. For those using 2nd and third generation devices, cleaning becomes easier as the atomisers can be stripped down. If the user chooses to progress further, they can ensure that they are using Kanthal wire rather than Nickle/Chromium alloy wires found in pre-made devices), cotton wool or steel wicks (rather than silica based), make their own liquid using pharmaceutical rather than food grade Propylene Glycol & Vegetable Glycerin, thus having complete control over their device and liquid (with the exception of flavouring and sweeteners, which they can choose carefully). Alas, regulation (medical and otherwise) will block the clean path for large parts of the world in the name of safety and profit and people using these devices will become dependant on the tobacco and pharmaceutical companies (and thus products with trademarked unknown ingredients and, I fear, lots of unpleasant additives as one might find in the cigarettes of today.

pagaenmoon - 2/4/2014 6:28 AM
1 Vote
Those who are against these products are really grasping at straws now. How about a story about how much bacteria forms on other things we use everyday? What about silverware that sits in a drawer for a few days? Or your toothbrush that's sitting on the sink next to the toilet?

equiton - 2/4/2014 3:20 AM
1 Vote
Obviously you clean something that goes from mouth to pocket to purse on a regular basis. Fortunately propylene glycol the main ingredient of e-cigs and what carries the vapour to the lungs is antibacterial. A quick google will show how its used for that reason from hospitals to food preparation.

NWooley83 - 2/3/2014 10:37 PM
1 Vote
Very interesting to read this... I clean my equipment pretty often with hot water and alcohol.
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